Khan Boris

Khan Boris (852-889) was a statesman who was acutely aware of these historical tasks and who daringly undertook to solve them. He had good reasons to feel ap-prehensive of the growing Byzantine influence in the country and sought the help of the German Emperor (in 843 the Frankish Empire was divided into three parts) asking him to serve as intermediary in Bulgaria’s adoption of Christianity from Rome. Byzantium reacted without delay by organizing an impressive military campaign against Bulgaria. The condition for signing peace was that the Bulgarians should be converted to Christianity by the Byzantine Church.

One night, secretly from the bolls the Khan was con-verted to Christianity, changing his title to Prince and adopting the Christian name of Mihail – the name of the Byzantine Emperor. After that priests sent expressly from Constantinople started converting en masse the population to Christianity. Many from among Boris’s closest boils considered his action as treason and as subjection of the Bulgarian state, which had been built up at the price of so many sacrifices and efforts, to its sworn enemy, the Byzantine Empire. The governers of ten districts, sup-ported by the population, rose in rebellion against the Prince. Boris, who was fully aware of his responsibility for the future destinies of the Bulgarian state, crushed the uprising with an iron hand. Fifty-two bolls together with their families, were executed, while the common rebels were set free. Boris was equally merciless several years later towards his son Vladimir, to whom he had ceded the throne while still alive. He had learned about Vladimir’s secret preparations to re-convert the country to paganism and he deprived him of all power, ordering to blind him. The physical extermination of scores of boil families served as a strong impetus to the Slavization of the Bulgarian state.

Patriarch in Constantinople

After Boris had dealt with the unrest within the country, he directed his attention to the dangers from outside, which were not less perilous for the Bulgarian state. The country was swarming with Byzantine priests who, alongside preaching the new religion, were assiduously disseminating Byzantine influence among the population. In order to eliminate this influence the Prince started a consistent struggle for the establishment of a Bulgarian Church, independent from Constantinople. After the first refusal, he turned to Rome and for several years (866-870) the Bulgarian church passed under the spiritual guidance of the Pope. A heated dialogue between Pope Nicholas I and Patriarch Photius followed, deftly fanned by the Bulgarian Prince, who manifested himself as an excellent diplomat. The result was that the Christians in Bulgaria were returned to the guidance of the Patriarch in Constantinople, but with an archbishop of their own.